Tarif Khalidi | American University of Beirut

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Reviews of Books by Tarif Khalidi

Images of Muhammad

"Khalidi, a professor at the American University in Beirut and author of the seminal work The Muslim Jesus, explores the dynamic but misunderstood Prophet Muhammad. Khalidi studies his subject anew by dissecting the Sira, or biographies, of Muhammad, which cut across all Muslim traditions—including Sunni and Shia—and time periods. Drawing on these varied biographical sources, Khalidi presents a wholly new, unified and even surprising view of the man who founded Islam. Along the way, the reader learns about Islam through the story of Muhammad’s life. Though portrayed as a warlike tyrant by Western critics, Muhammad is said to have denied permission to a young man who wanted to engage in jihad, advising him to tend to his parents instead. Khalidi’s extremely well done chapter on hadith (the traditions of the Prophet) is at once an introduction to the concept of hadiths while also elucidating on the figure of Muhammad. The author emphasizes a point that the West has yet to accept: that in the single figure of Muhammad, Islam had both its founder and interpreter of the message, a hybrid Jesus-Moses figure."-- Publishers Weekly

The Qur’an

"While being faithful to the original, [Khalidi] succeeds in conveying linguistic shifts, from narrative to mnemonic, sermons to parables. And there is an innovative component: it is the first translation that tries to capture both the rhythms and the structure of the Qur'an… This translation manages to give a glimpse of the grandeur of the original… A magnificent achievement."
Ziauddin Sardar, The Guardian (London)

"What sets Khalidi apart from his predecessors is his sensitivity to the sounds and many layers of meaning of the original as well as his skill in conveying them to an anglophone audience… Khalidi's introduction and bibliographic note are marvelously succinct, explaining the textual nature and structure of the Qur'an, its place in Muslim life, and providing a very useful summary of recent research and further reading... a landmark in the history of English translations of the Qur'an."--Ziad Elmarsafy, Times Literary Supplement

"An eloquent and eminently readable translation . . . much closer to the way the first Muslims experienced the Qur'an."--Reza Aslan, author of No God but God

The Muslim Jesus

"Tarif Khalidi's commentary and compilation of Muslim depictions of Jesus is a remarkable, eye-opening work of deep scholarship, profound religious understanding, and unprecedentedly rich cross-cultural exchange. A work as full of novelty as it is of wonderful illumination, Khalidi's effort to show how one major religion adopted and loved the central figure of another religion establishes him as one of the foremost Islamic scholars of our time. This book is a pleasure to read, accessible to generalists and to those for whom bellicose claims about the clash of civilizations are as unsatisfactory as they are false."--Edward W. Said, author of Reflections on Exile and Other Essays

"The 300-odd logia are enormously impressive, reminiscent of the Nag Hammadi corpus as well as of the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount, yet altogether distinctive. The combination of sublime moralist and magician is striking, and so is the virtual exclusion of reference to the Crucifixion. The author's introduction makes the general history easily intelligible."--Frank Kermode, author of Shakespeare's Language

"Despite the stereotypes and ignorance that have sometimes marred it, the long relationship between Christians and Muslims has also been mutually appreciative and productive. Both traditions have, for centuries, shared a love for the prophet of Galilee. Now for the first time we have The Muslim Jesus, a previously uncollected compendium of stories and sayings of Jesus from Muslim sources, some of them over a millennium old. This invaluable classroom resource will also enrich the present lively dialogue between the two fraternal faiths."--Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City and Fire from Heaven

"Ascetic saint, lord of nature, miracle worker, healer, social and ethical model: such is the figure of Jesus in Professor Khalidi's 'Muslim gospel.' A figure of universal reach and resonance, the object of a ubiquitous and all-too-human religious sentiment unfettered by sectarian affiliation, the Jesus of Muslim penitential and sententious literature assembled by Tarif Khalidi is particularly salutary today."--Aziz Al-Azmeh, author of Muslim Kingship: Power and the sacred in Muslim, Christian, and Pagan Polities

"Jesus figures prominently in Islam. Alongside the hadiths, the stories of the Prophet's sayings and actions, appear stories of Jesus' sayings and actions, 303 of which Tarif Khalidi has collected and translated to produce, for the first time, a Muslim gospel. Some of the sayings reflect certain of Jesus' sayings in the Christian gospels, while others probably derive from pre-Islamic ascetics and heroes...Khalidi's efforts bring a...[great] diversity of Muslim beliefs about Jesus into the book. To each story, Khalidi appends astute analysis, and a lengthy general introduction provides a historical and functional overview of the Muslim understanding of Jesus. An unique and important addition to the corpus of writings about Jesus."--John Green (Booklist)

"Tarif Khalidi brings together Islamic primary sources about Jesus from the eighth to eighteenth centuries. Included are mystical works, historical texts about prophets and saints and, of course, the foundational words about Jesus in the Qur'an...the literary quality of the texts and the role "the Muslim Jesus" has played in both Muslim piety and Muslim-Christian relations." (Publishers Weekly)

"[The Muslim Jesus] helps dispel the ignorance among Christians about Islam. It is a collection of Islamic sayings about Jesus in the Koran and Islamic literature...With a little perseverance, the reader is rewarded with a better understanding of Islam, and an appreciation of how one of the most central figures in Western civilization--Jesus of Nazareth--is perceived by another tradition".--Larry B. Stammer (Los Angeles Times )
"Jesus captivated the Muslim imagination; in Islam, he is regarded as the last great prophet to precede Muhammad. Khalidi reminds us of the Middle Eastern milieu into which Islam arrived. Under a blazing desert sun, many of the world's great traditions--Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism--mingled in a vibrant, dynamic atmosphere. The proximity of so many religions bred, along with tolerance, unmistakable signs of each other's influence...For many years, Khalidi engaged in scholarly archeology, poring over the Hadith for any sightings of Jesus. In The Muslim Jesus, he presents more than 300 stories and sayings...Consider one interesting East-West parallel aided by the book's chronological format. In a 14th century collection by the lawmaker al-Subki, Jesus is still a cherished figure, instructing Muslims that 'the rich shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.' About the same time, Dante consigned Muhammad to cruel suffering in 'Inferno.' We might explain such drastically different treatments by the fact that imperial Islam was flourishing while Western civilization was in turmoil. Today, with the situation reversed, the value of The Muslim Jesus is all the more evident. 'Amid the current tensions between Christianity and Islam,' Khalidi writes, 'it is salutary to remind ourselves of an age and a tradition when Christianity and Islam were more open to each other, more aware of and reliant on each other's wishes."'--Nick Owchar (Los Angeles Times )

"The Muslim Jesus is as fascinating as it is timely. The sayings are remarkable and often beautiful literary artifacts in their own right; but more importantly, they demonstrate that the links that bind Christianity and Islam are much deeper, more complex, and far more intricately woven, that most of us would expect...Now of all times, it should be welcomed as a book of the greatest importance."--William Dalrymple (The Guardian )

"Khalidi's long introduction is a gem of graceful erudition and analytical wisdom, setting the stage for dozens of often surprising and always fascinating extracts which show all the numerous ways in which Muslims, while denying both Incarnation and Crucifixion, nevertheless have a deep-seated affection and reverence for Jesus."--Edward W. Said (Times Literary Supplement )

"This short book contains a millennium's worth of sayings and stories of Jesus drawn from Islamic literature. The title may seem paradoxical; we are not accustomed to thinking of Jesus in Muslim contexts. Enter Tarif Khalidi, Sir Thomas Adams Professor of Arabic and director of the Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at King's College... Khalidi proves to be an expert guide to this wealth of material. As a result, The Muslim Jesus is a book of spiritual connoisseurship with a timely and seductive appeal... The Muslim Jesus is handsomely produced. Its pages are well designed and spacious. They invite the eye to linger and the mind to ruminate. Tarif Khalidi has not only risen to the occasion of our present discontents, he has transcended it and lifted the heart beyond sorrow and distraction to delight."--Thomas D'Evelyn (Christian Science Monitor )

"The Muslim Jesus is a very good book. Khalidi writes in eloquent yet never pompous English... always striving to be comprehensible to the nonspecialist. Moreover, he has done valuable work simply in collecting, annotating, and translating his material. Thereafter, he lets the material about Jesus speak for itself, in order (I think) to make an important point: that the Jesus of Islam is a creation of Islam. In Khalidi's words, the Muslim Jesus is "a compound image," a figure "resurrected in an environment where he becomes a Muslim prophet." Thus, Khalidi explains, a wide range of Muslim authors used the figure of Jesus as a spokesman for their cause, be it asceticism, quietism, Shi'ism, or anti-Christian polemic... Khalidi is to be congratulated for collecting this material and presenting it in a clear and accessible manner. He has also included a complete bibliography of Arabic sources for the specialist and detailed endnotes with the most important secondary literature for the specialist and nonspecialist alike. Khalidi might also be thanked for writing a book remarkably free of the arrogant tone and the gratuitous attacks on earlier scholars that seem to plague the field of Islamic studies."--Gabriel Said Reynolds (Books & Culture )

"Tarif Khalidi, professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge, has assembled a very valuable collection of sayings and stories--303 in number--of Jesus in Arabic Islamic literature. The sources scanned reach from the second to the twelfth Islamic centuries. The book consists of a comprehensive and illuminating fifty-page introduction, the 303 items in chronological order of their sources, and brief helpful comments (on sources, parallels, and function in Islamic discourse) appended to each item… Before Khalidi's efforts, the basic corpus of the "Muslim gospel" used to be a collection of 225 sayings by the Spanish scholar Miguel Asín y Palacios who translated the sayings into Latin (!) and provided brief Latin commentaries on them… Khalidi's collection will now replace that one for those of us whose needs are served by good translations… [The Muslim Jesus] is a great accomplishment, rewarding reading for anyone interested in Islam and in religious transculturation (sic)."--Heikki Räisänen (Journal of Biblical Literature )

"From the Qur'an on, Jesus has always had a special place in Muslim piety as Khalidi (professor of Arabic at Cambridge University) shows in his exemplary study, The Muslim Jesus…The 303 snippets that Khalidi translates and comments on from a wide range of sources (hadith, belles-lettres, mystical works, etc.) do convincingly establish his point that "In his Muslim habitat. Jesus becomes an object of intense devotion, reverence, and love." (Middle East Quarterly )

"The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature is the English translation of the largest collection ever published for a western readership of the sayings and stories of Jesus as found in Arabic Islamic literature. A unique and invaluable resource for the study of Jesus' role and position within an Islamic context…Tarif Khalidis's informative introduction and commentaries place the sayings and stories within an historical context…The Muslim Jesus is an indispensable and greatly appreciated addition to Islamic Studies." (The Midwest Book Review Bookwatch )

Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period

"The extent of Khalidi's reading is daunting, the subtlety and elegance of his exposition enviable. This is a book which is enjoyable as well as informative." (Times Literary Supplement)

"In a work as deftly written as it is erudite, Khalidi explores the intellectual context of the development of the practice of history in the central lands of Islam between the seventh and 15th centuries. Khalidi includes substantial quotations from Arab historicans in each of these periods to exemplify their epistemological presuppositions. Such extensive quotations and the context provided for them afford the non-Arabist reader a quick introduction to the major historians in this tradition. Every reader will find, as well, solid reflections on such basic historiographical issues as the sources of history, the reliability of sacred and profane reports, and the purposes to which history is put. Few works offer such multiple rewards to students and scholars alike." (Choice)

"... [an] extensively and carefully researched study..." (Islamic Thought)

"Tarif Khalidi admirably traces the development of Muslim historiography. ... Khalidi has written an elegant, concise, perceptive, and artistically narrated account of the morphology of a tradition in the making." (Middle East Journal)

"This is a wide-ranging, excellently written book on a subject of major importance, based on a formidable wealth of knowledge expertly distilled." David Morgan, University of London

Classical Arab Islam

"A thoughtful book, and one that will repay reading… Here there is both spirit and sense…  Recommended strongly for undergraduate reading lists was well as for general libraries."—Choice

"Students will find this book stimulating and the bibliographical essay a useful guide to the literature relevant to each lecture."—Middle East Studies Association Bulletin

"A significant contribution to Western understanding of the Arab World."—The Middle East Journal